Electrolyte Essentials

While we all know that it is important to drink enough water (sweating or not), what some people don’t know is that sometimes water isn’t enough to keep us hydrated as we sweat during exercise.

When we sweat, we aren’t just losing water, we are also losing what are called electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential minerals to the body that help maintain the body’s internal functioning (keeping a proper pH balance and ensuring proper nervous system functioning), keep our muscles performing properly, and ensure adequate hydration.

Sports drinks are commonly used to help replenish electrolytes after a big sweat session, but before you go grab a Gatorade or Powerade, make sure you look at the nutrition label. Make sure the sports drink, or other electrolyte solution, isn’t high in sugar. The increased sugar levels may make the drink taste better, but it won’t be as helpful hydrating you.

Not a sports drink fan? No problem, there are other alternatives to gaining back those lost minerals. Fruits and veggies that are high in calcium, potassium and magnesium are good go to’s. And while sodium (salt) is also something we need to replenish after a workout, don’t reach for the bag of chips, but rather have a handful of nuts or a small bowl of pretzels.

Written by Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Cold Weather and Joint Pain

With the fall season in full swing, colder weather is well on its way. A common question amongst people with joint pain is- “does the weather actually play a role in my joint pain?”. The answer to this is yes (to an extent). While it may not be the sole reason for your joint pain, changes in the weather can have certain effects on your musculoskeletal system. 

Take colder temperatures for example, a decrease in temperature can cause our muscular tissue to tighten up which in turn can restrict joint movement, causing an increased sense of stiffness in the joints. Decreased temperatures can also cause the fluid in your joints to thicken slightly, which can decrease its ability to move around the joints as freely as it would in warmer weather, causing that sense of stiffness. 

Another element of weather that has a role in joint pain is atmospheric pressure. Before a shift in the weather (rain or snow), the pressure of the air experiences a significant drop. A drop in atmospheric pressure allows the pressure within the body to expand. This internal rise in pressure can cause subsequent increased pressure in the joints, causing increased aches and pains. So when a friend predicts rain because their knees are aching, you may want to make sure you have an umbrella on hand in the days that follow. 

Just because colder weather is coming to stay for a while, does not mean you should have to live with that increased pain and stiffness in your joints until Spring. This is a great time to get up and move, as increased physical activity will help increase blood flow to your muscles and help “warm up” those joints.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan staff physical therapist at HPT

Let’s Run

A lot of people ask, “does my running form matter?”. The answer is YES. And while there is not one “right” way to run, there are certain elements of your form that you should be aware of to help you get the most out of your run. Making these small adjustments to your form may also help you begin to see an increase in your breathing ability, endurance and speed during your runs.

  1. Head – keep your head and neck in a neutral position to decrease the strain on your neck.
  2. Shoulders and Arms -keep your shoulders relaxed, keep your arms slightly bent at the elbow, don’t let your hands come up above your chest, avoid crossing your arms in front of you (this will help with your breathing and avoid cramps!).
  3. Trunk- while you run you should keep a slight forward trunk lean to help propel your body forward, forward lean does NOT equal hunching, hunching over should always be avoided to help optimize breathing.
  4. Knees- be sure to drive your knees up and forward to help propel you forward and also help avoid tripping.
  5. Feet and Ankles- try to land on your midfoot/forefoot when running rather than your heels (this will help keep you moving forward and avoid increase force/stress going up your leg).

If you or someone you know is interested in a running assessment please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our PTs would be happy to help you!

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Think Before you Lift

No matter what your occupation is, it is very likely that you pick things up (and put them down) from lower surfaces at least once throughout the day (both in and out of work). Whether it be packages, weights, children, groceries, something you dropped on the floor, etc., knowing how to properly lift is extremely important for your physical health.

When lifting, it is important to remember the 5 L’s:

1. Load- know your limits! If an object is too heavy, do not be afraid to ask for help.

2. Lever- for heavier objects, it is important to decrease the lever arm (your arm length usually). Lifting something closer to your body will decrease the  strain on your back and also make it easier to lift.

3. Lordosis- always do your best to maintain a neutral spine when lifting and avoid bending over (even if it is for something of little weight). It is also important to remember to minimize the amount of twisting you do when lifting something. Rather than twisting to put a box/groceries/etc on a table, try doing a small pivot.

4. Lungs- believe it or not, breathing is important in a heavy lift. A good rule of thumb is to take a deep inhale when preparing for the lift and then exhale during the lift. The biggest thing to remember is to NOT hold your breath when lifting something heavy.

5. Legs- you’ve probably heard it loads of times, but here it is again – lift with your legs NOT your back. Your legs can produce more power during a heavy lift than your back. Using your legs can also help you maintain a neutral spine.

So whether you are at the gym lifting weights, picking up your phone, lifting up groceries, or picking up your young one, remember these tips and your back will be sure to thank you.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Rules of Stretching

As you exercise and play sports, do you take time to stretch? As most people are short on time, the first thing to get cut from a workout is the stretching component. As physical therapists, we recommend that you don’t cut the stretching out as this can lead to an injury. Check out the stretching rules below to learn what you should focus on when you stretch:

  1. Perform a dynamic stretch (no holds) prior to your workout that mimics the sport or exercise you are about to participate in.
  2. Perform a dynamic stretch for a minimum of 5 minutes prior to your workout.
  3. After your work out, perform static stretches (hold stretches).
  4. Perform static stretches in all the major muscles groups you just used during your workout.
  5. Hold static stretches for 15-60 seconds for 2 repetitions each.

In summary, you can complete dynamic and static stretching for your workout in approximately 10 minutes. That 10 minutes is crucial to not skip as this could save you from an injury that could last weeks or months.

Written by Dr. Amanda Macht- owner of Harbor Physical Therapy

3 Easy Stretches for Heel Pain

If you suffer from heel pain, it may be caused by a condition called plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the sole of the foot from your heel to your toes. Repeated stress to the foot can cause inflammation to that band and cause sharp pain in your heel. This pain may feel worse first thing in the morning or when you are on your feet for long periods of time.

One part of treatment for plantar fasciitis includes stretching the tissue and muscles in the foot and calf to decrease tension around the heel. When performing these stretches, try to hold them for 30 seconds each, repeat 3 times, and perform them 2-3 times a day.

Seated Stretch – while sitting with your foot crossed over your other leg, pull your foot and toes back towards you.

Runner’s Stretch – while standing in front of a wall, place the foot that hurts back behind you and push your heel towards the ground.

Stair Stretch – while standing on the edge of a step, drop your heels down until a stretch is felt in the calves.

If you would like to learn more about how to get rid of your heel pain, contact Harbor Physical Therapy

How Do I Start Running for Exercise?

While the act of running itself is quite simple, finding and getting into a routine of it can seem daunting and difficult. But no fear, today we are going to discuss a few tips to get you ready to run!

  1. Invest in a good pair of running sneakers – This is the one piece of equipment you need to run, so do yourself (and your legs) a favor and buy a good pair of sneakers. Your best way of finding the right shoe for you is to go to a sporting goods store or a running store, there you will find people who can help guide you to your perfect shoe.
  2. Start small and slow – Start by just running a block or a lap around a track and see how you feel. A good way to build endurance is to split your workout into run-walk-run-walk, etc. Another way to build up to increased distances is to give yourself a target and then go a little further; example: aim for a tree in the distance, then once you get to the tree go for the next building/mailbox/driveway etc. As you build endurance you will be able to push yourself farther and farther.
  3. Set a goal- Give yourself something to work toward! Get some friends or family and sign up for a fun laid back 1miler, 5k, etc. Community held races can be a great way to learn to pace yourself and meet other runners in your area.
    If you would like to learn more information about how to start running consistently for exercise, contact Harbor Physical Therapy and one of our physical therapists can help create you a running program.

Tips for Staying Active this Summer

Summer is just around the corner and with COVID-19 restrictions continuing to be lifted and the weather getting nicer, more and more people are headed outside to get some fresh air and exercise. While summer comes with more consistent warmer and nicer weather, it can also pose some challenges to daily workout routines. Here are some tips to stay safe and stay active this summer!

  1. Stay Hydrated– As temperatures continue to rise, remember to keep drinking water before, during and after your workouts. If you are engaging in more vigorous workouts, be sure to not only drink water, but also sports drinks to help replenish your body’s essential electrolytes (however, be sure to buy sports drinks low in added sugars). 
  2. Save Your Skin– While you are moving around and not just lying in the sun, you are still at increased risk of getting sunburnt. Be sure to apply sunscreen prior to participating in any outdoor activity and reapply as necessary. For additional sun protection you can also add in wearing a hat and/or sunglasses to help protect your body from the sun’s rays. 
  3. Time is Key– If your schedule is flexible, try working out early in the morning or later on in the evening to avoid increased exposure to the sun and the heat. If you do end up exercising in the middle of the day, be sure to take the above steps as well as listen to your body if it needs a break. You could also opt to take your workout indoors and do a circuit or a workout video. 
  4. Plan Ahead– If you know it’s going to be a hot one and you are still planning on adventuring into the outdoors, be sure to be prepared and plan ahead. If you are taking a hike or going on a picnic, be sure to bring extra water, food and sunscreen with you. If you are going on a walk or a run, try to plan a route that has a lot of shaded areas, access to water, or even bring water with you. 

Take a Dip– Planning on hitting the pool this summer? If you do, try doing a pool workout! Almost all exercises you can do on land you can also do in the pool. Advantages of pool workouts include increased buoyancy and availability of graded resistance. Be careful not to overdo it. Exercises in the pool can feel easier than on land so you may be tempted to do more, so be sure to progress yourself as tolerated.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan

Eat Well, Feel Well

As we age proper nutrition becomes essential, however, getting older also can come with barriers to healthy eating habits. These barriers can include lack of appetite, decreased thirst and decreased sense of smell and taste. These barriers can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including medications and a sense of social isolation. Overcoming these barriers can be difficult, but with an open mind, positive attitude, and possibly a little bit of help, healthy eating habits can be achieved. Below you will find some tips on how to make some healthy changes to your diet. Please be sure to contact a health care provider before making any serious changes to your diet

  • Choose nutrients over calories- While those chips and candy bars may seem more appealing, they have what are considered “empty calories”, meaning they contain calories but very little nutritional value and will only sustain your hunger for a small period of time. If you’re craving something salty, try grabbing a handful of nuts or seeds instead of the bag of chips. If you have a sweet tooth, instead of going for the candy bar, try going for a piece of fresh fruit or a handful of dried fruit. These alternatives will still satisfy your cravings, while also fueling your body
  • Go for the H20- Remembering to drink water can be hard, especially if you have a decreased sense of thirst. A good way to help increase your water intake is to get a water bottle or a tumbler and always have it near you; that way you don’t have to get up and go to the kitchen, you can just reach over and take a swig or two. Another trick is to make it like a game- keep a tally in a notebook or on a whiteboard for how many cups/bottles of water you drink a day. Having that visual can help not only remember to drink water, but actually make it more enjoyable.
  • Stimulate the senses- If you have a lack of appetite due to decreased sense of smell or taste, this tip is the one for you. One way to boost your appetite is to have your food appeal to your other senses, like sight. Studies show that using bright colored vegetables and fruits in your meals can help increase your appetite and subsequently also make your meal healthier. You can also spice things up with different flavors and seasonings to enhance your taste buds. This does include salt-while salt may make your food taste better, too much of can cause/worsen certain heart issues. Instead, try grabbing spices like cinnamon, paprika, and curry, or herbs like cilantro, oregano and basil. 
  • Small and steady- You may not have the appetite for three large meals a day, and that is okay! Smaller and more frequent meals and snacks can still provide you with a sufficient amount of nutrients. When doing this, you want to be sure you are getting enough calories to meet your body’s needs, but also meeting your nutritional needs. Some examples are having a small breakfast of yogurt or oatmeal with some fruit, nuts or granola on top, or a lunch of a salad with dark leafy greens, veggies and seeds. 
  • Get moving – If you find yourself not having much of an appetite, get up and get moving! Along with its many other benefits, physical activity can help increase your metabolism and make you hungrier. Regular physical activity is also beneficial helping with proper food digestion and preventing constipation.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan

Which Should Come First: Weightlifting or Cardiovascular Exercise?

As most people know, a combination of weight lifting and aerobic/cardiovascular exercise is recommended by medical professionals to enhance health and longevity. Because most of us don’t have the time nor energy to space out workouts into multiple gym sessions per day, a common question arises: should weights or cardio come first?

The answer, like most things health and fitness, is not entirely straightforward and depends largely on your individual goals. If you’re an endurance athlete or someone who just prefers to prioritize aerobic exercise, it’s recommended that you do your cardio prior to weight training in order to optimize aerobic performance and cardiovascular fitness. Performing exercise in this order is also shown to increase post-exercise energy expenditure (i.e., more calories continue to be burned even after you finish working out).

On the other hand, if you’re a powerlifter or simply someone who prefers to lift weights, doing so prior to cardio is shown to maximize muscular strength and size gains. Weightlifting prior to cardio is also recommended in older individuals as age-related declines in muscle mass that hinder aerobic performance may be mitigated when workouts are structured in this fashion.

Here’s the main takeaway: choosing whether to do cardio or strength training first depends on your fitness goals, but either way is shown to confer great health benefits. So the choice is yours!

Written by: Dr Scott Newberry